Can I Vote?

This election season has been filled with drama and high emotion. At the end of the day, it’s the votes cast that will decide the outcome. So who can vote? Can a person with a criminal conviction vote?

Florida Statute 97.041 answers these questions.

Qualifications to register or vote.

(1)(a) A person may become a registered voter only if that person:

1. Is at least 18 years of age;
2. Is a citizen of the United States;
3. Is a legal resident of the State of Florida;
4. Is a legal resident of the county in which that person seeks to be registered; and
5. Registers pursuant to the Florida Election Code.

(b) A person who is otherwise qualified may preregister on or after that person’s 16th birthday and may vote in any election occurring on or after that person’s 18th birthday.

(2) The following persons, who might be otherwise qualified, are not entitled to register or vote:

(a) A person who has been adjudicated mentally incapacitated with respect to voting in this or any other state and who has not had his or her right to vote restored pursuant to law.
(b) A person who has been convicted of any felony by any court of record and who has not had his or her right to vote restored pursuant to law.
(3) A person who is not registered may not vote.

Voting and Criminal Convictions

An earlier post discussed the collateral consequences of criminal convictions. Losing your right to vote is a huge blow for people. Voting is one of the most direct ways citizens have to participate in their government, from deciding who will serve as school board representative to the President of the United States.
Not all criminal convictions will take away voting rights. If you are convicted of misdemeanor your right to vote will not be impacted. However, if you are adjudicated guilty of a felony, you can no longer vote.

Can I vote in Jail?

Yes, you can vote while you are in jail – that is, as long as you haven’t been convicted of a felony. If you are serving a sentence for a misdemeanor or are in jail awaiting trial, you can vote. Contact your local Supervisor of Elections to see how you can request your absentee ballot.

Can I vote in Prison?

No, you cannot. In Florida, it is impossible to be in prison without being convicted of a felony. If you are convicted of a felony, you can’t vote.

I was convicted of a felony, but I want to get my right to vote back. Can I do that?

Possibly. You have to apply for clemency, sometimes referred to as a “pardon” from the Governor. There are different types of clemency, some of which will restore your right to vote.

Where can I get more information on restoring my right to vote?

The Florida Commission on Offender Review has a Clemency Overview

The Brennan Center for Justice recently released information on efforts on voting rights restoration in Florida.